The month where the F5 button takes an absolute pummelling has come to an end. We don’t need to look at Jim White’s ruddy face again until the summer. We can stop thinking about the minute to £ ratio for Scott Allan. The window, ladies and gentleman, has… wait for it… closed. Just… closed.
The January transfer window for Celtic fans is always a complicated beast. We are repeatedly told by the manager that January is THE MOST IMPORTANT window with a view to European competition. Just a few days ago Rodgers spoke about the January window as being essential and intensely difficult at the same time:
‘Up here, January is a very pressurised window, especially if you are going for a title after which you are straight into Champions League qualifiers in June. So the focus is really on you this month to get some players in.’
‘But you can only really get them in if they are available. I have been in contact with some Premier League managers, building up to January, and they just have no interest in letting out any of their players this month because they can’t replace them. So it is tough.’
The problem with this revelation is that it puts even more pressure on the club. The fans hear this information and marry it with their burning desire to be playing Champions League football come September, and the result is a month long frenzy of Twitter ITK accounts talking shite and fans on every facet of social media looking to see if they can discover some kind of exclusive.
And then, at midnight on the 31st of January the immortal line is dropped:
‘We tried hard, but we just couldn’t get the quality we wanted over the line.’
It goes down like a cup of cold sick, especially when fans have been continuously told how important the window is. It feels like an admittance of CL failure before the campaign has even begun.
Celtic’s recent history in January has been underwhelming to say the least. In Deila’s first season we brought in Michael Duffy from Derry for an undisclosed fee, spent £250k on GMS and £2m on Stuart Armstrong. 1/3 success rate and just over £2m spent.
Deila’s 2nd season was… well… bit more interesting. Carlton Cole and Kazim-Richards both joined on a free in January, but the ying to the yang was the loan signing of Paddy Roberts and the middling signing of Sviatchenko for around £1.5m. Again: scattergun and cheap.
Eboue Kouassi was Brendan’s only signing in his first winter, but the second winter saw more faces make probably as much impact as the Ivorian: Compper, Morgan, Musonda, Bain and Hendry all joined last year.
Armstrong and Bain are probably the only two players (at this moment in time… I still believe, Eboue and Morgan) from the last four winter transfer windows that have been anywhere near good enough. For a window that is so important to the very identity of Celtic football club and Celtic fans, that is simply depressing.
The January transfer window has become like a quick morning wank while your girlfriend is in the shower: it feels good and exciting at the time, but then afterwards you feel hollow, ashamed, dirty and craving chocolate. And for some reason Scott Allan is standing in your living room.
But this year was different. Let me start that again… But was this year different? Going to be a case of wait and see for some, but let’s take this one new Tim at a time.
Oliver Burke was the first in the door. And he carried with him the triple threat of:
- Being a 6 month loan deal, which everyone hates more than Jeremy Hunt
- No future fee agreed
- Couldn’t get a game for Championship WBA
Burke arrived at a hard time: the 29th had just happened and Celtic fans were raw. They wanted defenders first and foremost and they wanted permanent signings. Burke was neither. He also appeared to play in the same position as Forrest, so what was the fucking point. However, he has started well for Celtic and has shown his flexibility in being able to fill in pretty much anywhere along the front line.
Timothy Weah had most of the same baggage as Burke except for the fact that he was younger, coming from PSG and, you know, the Da. Plus he didn’t look like the kid from Mad magazine and a Hobbit had had a baby. But a 6 month loan and no future fee and most people were underwhelmed. A couple of quick goals, a few humble and charming soundbites and some hugging of the fans later and Timmy is very much a timmy.
Vakoun Issouf Bayo was next up. All we know about Bayo at this stage is that he gives good YouTube video and he was announced like he was the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. So… a success.
Maryan Shved had Celtic fans in a tizzy for two reasons:
- Brendan knew nothing about him. And this caused a panic among people that still think a football manager runs every facet of a football club. The way Brendan handled the questions also hinted at internal club strife and some were quick to notice his semantics, constantly referring to ‘the club’ and not ‘we’.
- Fans aged 30+ had a wave of staved fingers as they attempted to be the first to make a Shved 7 joke on Twitter.
Manny Perez and Andrew Gutman hate the Queen. Well, Manny does at least. I’m sure Andrew does too, but he has not been so forthcoming. Two young fullbacks, American market opened up, little financial outlay. What’s not to like? Gutman’s hair, that’s what. The Griff knows a guy, Andrew. It will be bald to candy floss in two seconds, mate. Sorry, it will be bald to cotton candy in two seconds, bro.
Jeremy Toljan signed and on the 31st day Peter Lawwell looked at what he had done, and it was good. The one we had all been waiting for: the Lustig killer. 24-year-old athletic full back that can play on both sides, has substantial Bundesliga experience, capped at most levels for Germany, and is so handsome that he more than compensates for Oliver Burke’s face. But he signed on a 6 month loan and with no future fee agreed.
The elephant in the room: three of the seven players signed in the most important window will be gone when the Champions League qualifiers come around. This is not going down well with a lot of fans. I would defend the club here in a few ways:
- Our first priority is to win 8 in a row. These signings will hopefully help us achieve that.
- Timmy Weah would never join permanently and we couldn’t afford Oliver Burke
- Loan deals can lead to permanent deals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toljan join permanently in the summer just as Edouard did following a loan. The lack of a future fee agreement does not mean there will be no future transfer.
The deals that excite me the most from the window are Bayo and Shved. These two players are exactly the profile of player we should be going for and are coming from the markets we should be shopping in. They are young, raw and mouldable. These kinds of signings are dismissively referred to as ‘projects’ by Celtic fans that have no realisation of the market we operate in. VVD was a project, as was Wanyama. If we had signed Benkovic directly from Dinamo Zagreb, I bet some fans would have bemoaned the fact that we didn’t go for someone tried and tested.
Paradoxically, some Celtic fans want us to follow the Red Bull Salzburg model, but simultaneously shop in the big leagues for the big players. When a player in the English championship is getting £50k a week, then you know most players from that country are out of bounds for us. We would need to snatch a Dembele where we can push the finances we save from the fee into the players wages or a Sinclair where the player has been on the decline for seasons and has a personal relationship to the manager. Outside of that, the big four or five leagues only exist to us as a source of loan deals.
A quick look at the transfer dealings of RB Salzburg and you will see a system completely dissimilar to ours. They have a Feeder club in Austria called Liefering and a lot of their signings come through there, including a 22-year-old Brazilian called Carlos, a 26-year-old Brazilian called Andre Ramalho, 23-year-old Samassekou from Mali, 18-year-old Hungarian, Szoboszlai and 21-year-old Enock Mwepu and 20-year-old Patson Daka from Zambia. They signed 21-year-old Darko Todorovic from the Bosnian league, Moanes Dabour from Grasshoppers, Takumi Minamino directly from the J-League and Erling Haland from Molde. Their signing policy is creative and they shop in the less glamourous markets.
Some people will say ‘but work permits’ and my response to that would be: the WP situation in Scotland is extremely lenient… we just signed two American college kids! Others might say ‘but the Austrian League is a direct route to the Bundesliga’ and my response to that would be: ‘lemme tell you about the EPL’. The truth is: we spend enough money for a club or size, but we need to start spending it more intelligently.
We need to embrace projects. Projects allowed RB Salzburg to rattle through that Europa League group. And projects are the only way we will get any value for money. For that reason, I’m really looking forward to seeing Shved and Bayo. But I also think that we could be a bit more adventurous with our projects. Benkovic would have cost us a lot coming from Dinamo (not as much as Leicester paid, I imagine) but surely his quality was clear. We should be building our squad with a core of homegrown talent, the best of the SPFL’s players, cheap projects and more ballsy projects. That would be proper and sustainable squad building.
As fans we need to get away from the idea that shopping in the top four or five is appropriate for Celtic. We need to go for the unknowns, rattle through the Banguras to get to the Pukkis… J
I am happy with this window. It gives us immediate quality to hopefully get the final two trophies over the line and perhaps make a game of it in Valencia. That immediate impact is also supplemented with prospects that may or not make it. If they do… they are heroes for life and future massive transfer fees. If they don’t… nothing much lost.
And we shouldn’t undervalue the power of a loan deal. A loan deal could open the loanees’ eyes to the wonder that is being a Celtic player, the feeling of running out at Celtic Park and the overwhelming love of the Celtic fans (I noticed last night that Gutman’s Instagram numbers jumped by 1k in about an hour. Perez’ was the same.) A 6 month loan could be the first step in getting a really good player on the hook, ensuring they have a love for us when they leave and perhaps a couple of years down the year they quit Manchester City and come fucking home.
I imagine I will be called a Liewell apologist for some of this stuff, but that’s far from the truth. As I mentioned, our recruitment is not being run properly, I just disagree with some fans about the types of mistakes being made.
This summer is going to be massively transitional for the club, with some players’ contracts running out and many players going back to their parent clubs. I am hopeful that this window has added some potential to the 2019/2020 squad. I’m sure Steve Clarke will get the best out of them.